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Inclusive communication refers to discourse that encourages students without preferentially encouraging specific students or groups of students. When teachers use non-inclusive communication in the classroom, often times underrepresented students are less likely to participate and contribute in the classroom.
How to Promote Inclusive Communication
- Make a specific effort to call on all students equally. Do not call on the first hand that goes up.
- When you ask a question, add wait time for a response and look at all students. Making eye contact can help you elicit responses from students.
- Listen attentively to all students when they speak, even if their answer is wrong, even if they speak slowly or hesitantly, or speak English as a second language. Do not assume that an incisive, assured style of speech equals knowledge, or that a hesitant style equals ignorance.
- Use praise as a deliberate strategy, coupled with feedback about the quality of work and suggestions for improvement. Give criticism in the form of a question, where possible. ("How would your answer be different if you took into account ____?" rather than "Your answer is wrong because you did not mention _____.")
- Note patterns of interruption to determine if some groups of students are interrupted more than others, either by yourself or by other students.
- Ask the same kinds of questions (critical thinking vs. factual) to different kinds of students.
- Avoid stories, jokes and comments that characterize or group students by gender, race or ethnicity.
These recommendations are based on Bernice R. Sandler's "Eighteen Ways to Warm Up the Chilly Climate".
Examples of Non-Inclusive Communication
Who: Roberta M. Hall and Bernice R. Sandler
What: Compiled information demonstrating the impact of non-inclusive communication in the classroom.
How: An example of non-inclusive communication practiced in the classroom is the use of non-parallel terminology. Often times, faculty may refer to males in a classroom as "men" whereas they refer to femalesas "girls" or "gals". The use of such terminology provides the implication that women are "less serious and less capable" than men, in turn marginalizing women in the classroom. Another example of such behavior is apparent in faculty members' use of "coaching" for men to a higher degree than for women. For instance, a professor may be more encouraging to a male student to elaborate on a topic by stating "Tell me more about that", but not do the same for a female student.
Evidence: Sandler and Hall's research demonstrated that biased language used by faculty resulted in low rates of participation by women. Female students stated that when attempting to communicate with faculty, many times they were interrupted, provided little eye contact, and offered little guidance or criticism in the classroom. Hall and Sandler provide a number of recommendations for undergraduate professors in order to avoid non-inclusive communication.
The study can be found here.
"Inclusive Communication." McMaster University. McMaster University, 2008. Web. 28 Mar. 2011. <http://www.mcmaster.ca/hres/inclusive_communication.html>.Hall, Roberta M., and Bernice R. Sandler. The Classroom Cimate: A Chilly One for Women? Rep. Washington, D.C: Project on the Status and Education of Women, Association of American Colleges, 1982. Print.